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Regardless of politics or where people stand on its passage, the Affordable Care Act is poised to have a radical effect on health care providers and associated markets. For primary care providers, the law promises to increase their pool of customers (i.e., patients) by approximately 30 million people—an increase that is both thrilling and intimidating, especially considering the shortage of doctors that the United States already is suffering.

To address this concern, together with the growing need and demands for health care services, drugstores such as CVS and Walgreens, as well as general merchandisers such as Target, are developing and expanding their walk-in clinics. These clinics provide basic care offered by nurses, such as testing blood pressure or cholesterol levels, diagnosing a cold or ear infection, and giving flu shots.

For customers, the clinics offer great convenience benefits. Most shoppers see drugstores on nearly every corner, and many of the walk-in clinics are staffed seven days a week. For anyone who has left the doctor’s office feeling terrible, only to have to drive to the drugstore and wait for a prescription to be filled, the promise of an onsite pharmacy should be a welcome offer. Insurance providers, including those under the Affordable Care Act, also tend to regard these visits as in-network, which means the consumers only have to cover their copayment.

As a result of such appealing traits, the walk-in clinic model has been spreading, to approximately 1,350 stores in the United States. As more people gain access to health insurance, that number is predicted to double within four years. CVS alone already runs 600 MinuteClinics and plans to open 100 more in the near future.

Source: Chad Terhune, “In-Store Clinics Look to Be a Remedy for Healthcare Law Influx,” Los Angeles Times, July 30, 2012

 

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